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“I Am With You Always”

This morning’s newspaper included two very different stories that intersected in my mind and spirit. They gave me an insight which may be a comfort to you.

First, I read that, at the start of a Sunday school class he was teaching yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter announced that the brain cancer that was expected to kill him within months has completely disappeared.

Then, I read about the death of 4-month-old Eion Montgomery Borders. He was born with a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 18, and he spent his entire life in the hospital before dying a few weeks shy of Christmas.

An infant died when there was no miracle. A 91-year-old man miraculously recovered. What kind of spiritual calculus does that reveal? What would lead God to make such decisions? Is His determination of who lives and dies arbitrary? Or worse, is it somehow unfair?

You may never have voiced questions like those, but every couple I’ve ever led through the infertility Bible study has grappled with those questions in some form:

“Why don’t we deserve a miracle? Why doesn’t God want to help us? Why does He turn His back on us, but bless other people? Why did our baby die when others live?”

Without clear answers, the apparent injustice can be crazy-making and spiritually devastating. Over time, it can feel virtually impossible not to resent other people’s miracles — and turn our backs on God.

Which brings us back to the two newspaper stories….

Maybe we need a different perspective on what God is — or isn’t — doing. Look carefully, and you’ll see that very different circumstances led to similar outcomes.

When Carter learned he had brain cancer, he very publicly declared his trust in God’s plan. He was at peace with any outcome, he said, and by all accounts, that was true. The miraculous disappearance of four brain lesions gave him another opportunity to publicly affirm his faith, which enabled many around him to see God at work.

Meanwhile, Eoin — whose name means “God’s gift” — came into the world as the first child of parents who felt blessed by his arrival. Despite his genetic condition, “he challenged everyone’s expectations for his life,” said the Borders. “He challenged what people believe is possible….”

Then, he died.

But his legacy did not.

“Eoin’s major accomplishment in this world is that he stirred the hearts of people (his parents included) towards God and helped them focus on what truly is important in this life.” In writing his obituary, Eoin’s parents proclaimed that they are now closer to God and have deepened their understanding of life’s true priorities. Their public witness will touch many lives as the photo of baby Eoin captures the attention of readers this morning.

What if the stories of Carter and baby Eoin are two paths to the same destination? Asked another way, what if — from God’s perspective — it’s less about the outcome of their stories than what the outcomes accomplish in the lives of those touched by the stories?

Examined side-by-side, the two stories clearly demonstrate the power of both joy and grief — both healing and lack of healing — to immerse people in the loving presence of God.

The lesson, then? Both incredible good news and devastating loss are invitations to draw nearer, to sense God’s presence more fully, to hunger and thirst for His faithfulness, and to see that  — no matter what the circumstances — “I am with you always.”

I’m convinced that, particularly in this Christmas season, it’s all part of His great plan to show Himself Emmanuel, God with us.

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Want to draw nearer to God and find peace in the midst of your circumstances? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.

 

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Reading the Tea Leaves

I have a smart and successful friend who has been a Christian all her life. Most people would say Gail is confident and capable, but she struggles with uncertainty. When her desire for control becomes too strong to resist, she has a secret:  She sees a psychic — and, together, they attempt to read the tea leaves to discern what the future holds.

It’s a struggle for me to hold my tongue. Not because she’s wasting her money or because she’s desperate for answers (who hasn’t been?), but because I’m convinced it’s a false security that she gains. And I believe it moves her further from, rather than closer to, the only one who truly knows what’s coming. The Lord says, “Trust me” and “Do not be afraid.” But, it’s too hard for her to resist peeking behind the curtain. Or trying to anyway.

I want to help you make a better choice.

First, let me say I totally understand the desire to know what’s coming. So does anyone who’s every wrestled with the many unknowns of infertility:  Is the doctor right about what’s wrong? Are we wasting time? Are we wasting money? Whose fault is it? If we knew, would that change anything? Is all this failure a sign? If we can’t know, should we keep trying — or should we give up?

And just as urgent are the even-bigger questions:  Will we always be the ones who never had a family? And if we are, will we walk away from God?

The answer is not in the tea leaves. Or in the cards. Or in today’s horoscope. Or wherever it is you turn hoping for a view of the future you are not meant to see. I say that with a high degree of certainty….

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.   – Isaiah 55:8

So, where does that leave you?

Maybe…. reassured. God’s thoughts are not your thoughts? That means He’s not worried, or desperate, or afraid. He’s not thinking about who to blame, or how to answer questions people have no right to ask. He’s not thinking about failure or biological clocks or limited budgets or imperfect doctors. His thoughts are not your thoughts.

Instead, His thoughts flow out of who He is and what He has promised. He is faithful. He is unchanging. He is Almighty. He is abundant sufficiency. And He loves you.

His ways are not your ways? So then, He’s not biting His nails, waiting for the test results, staying busy to avoid thinking about what’s not happening. Instead, He is drawing near to those who draw near to Him. He is seeking the hearts of those who are suffering and struggling, and He is offering help and hope — through his Son, and through the Holy Spirit.

He is not avoiding what’s hard and heartbreaking. He is in the midst of it — with you.

When your mind is full of urgent questions, it is easy to turn away from God and turn to anyone or anything you believe might give you the answers you crave. But I can tell you from experience:  Infertility is an extended invitation to get to know God better. Deeper. More intimately than you’ve ever imagined possible. Not because He needs it; because you do.

It will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better neighbor, and a better ambassador for His Kingdom.

And when your baby comes, you will realize that a time you thought was all about suffering was actually all about growing in faith — in anticipation of the blessing that was destined to come.

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For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

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Watch Your Words

This morning, I was reading Jesus Calling, and I came across this imperative:  “Watch your words diligently. Words have such great power to bless or to wound.” I think it’s fair to say that I am painfully aware of words’ power to wound.

When I miscarried twins — shortly after a maternity clothes shopping spree with my mom — I felt compelled to return everything we’d bought. Somehow, it seemed like it would bring closure.

But then, I reached the counter at Macy’s and held out my pile of unused clothing. The saleswoman asked, with a mixture of surprise and resentment, “You want to return ALL of this? Why?!”

I froze. The women behind me in line stared. Really? I was going to make them wait while returning ALL of this? The looks on their faces spoke their thoughts: We resent you wasting our time. I looked back at the saleswoman and said tearfully, “Because I just miscarried twins — and if I’m not pregnant any more, I don’t need these any more.” There was dead silence as the weight of my words sank in. I started to cry, she began scanning the tags, and the women behind me stared at the floor.

Was it the words she said? Yes, but also the ones she didn’t say. She indulged herself in resentment at my expense — without knowing the whole story. The arrogance was staggering, and belittling. And I was hurting so much already. Was she an awful person? No. She was a busy, insensitive one who lost sight of the fact that her job was to serve me… graciously. Instead, she left a wound that took a very long time to heal.

The same sort of thing happened when we called my brother-in-law to tell him about the miscarriage. My husband and I sadly shared the news, and he responded with a whoop and, “Now WE’LL have the first grandchild!” We were shocked by the realization that his competitive streak extended to bringing a baby into the world. Oblivious to our feelings, he let the words fly out of his mouth unfiltered. Like the saleswoman, he indulged his baser instincts at our expense. And it hurt our hearts.

I know it’s happened to you, too. Someone has spoken thoughtlessly and broken your heart.  Brought you to tears with a careless remark that cost them nothing but feels like it costs you everything: your composure, your dignity, your hope. Isn’t infertility hard enough already?

It killed me to be on the receiving end of the words slung at me by the saleswoman and my brother-in-law. And yes, there were many others: the boss who responded to office grapevine news of my miscarriage with the question, “Were you TRYING to get pregnant?,” the gynecologist who blithely reassured me, “You can always try again,” the high-risk Ob who saw the ultrasound and muttered, “hmmm… probably Down’s Syndrome,” the people at church who asked again and again, “When are  you two going to start a family?”

And on, and on, and on….

Their words left wounds, and some left permanent scars.

But, there’s good news: 1) their words did not determine our future; that power is God’s alone. And, 2) those experiences taught me the truth of these words from scripture:

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” [Prov 12:18].

Research has shown that we always imprint an experience more deeply if there is an emotion attached to it. Infertility — and the careless remarks people make — prove quickly that it’s true. But, so do your responses to this blog.

These are words that the Holy Spirit has willed into being by whispering into my spirit, nudging me to come to the computer to share what I see and understand. I am a stranger to you! And my only tools to help you are the promises of scripture and the healing power of words. But, I use those — one-on-one, with small groups, in my book and in this blog — to do all I can to deliver help and hope as you make your way through this painful journey to the amazing future the Lord has planned for you.

There’s nothing special about me or what I say 0ther than that the Holy Spirit works through me to guide you, encourage you, reassure and inspire you, and help you keep the faith.

So, the next time someone says something callous, heartless or just plain clueless…. come back here for words that will soothe your spirit and renew your hope. I’ll do what I can to bring healing.

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For more encouragement, help and hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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Do Not Be Afraid

It is a source of great joy for me to work in my yard — planting, trimming, nurturing living things. The challenge is to create something beautiful that thrives without constant maintenance, something that lifts my spirits whenever I look out the window and calls me back outdoors. Because we’ve had so much rain over the past few months, all my plants have exploded with new growth. So, I decided to spend a few hours outside shaping the bushes and pulling weeds.

In the midst of my peaceful productivity, a neighbor suddenly yanked open her blinds and screamed at me, “Get away from that bush! What are you doing cutting it now?! Don’t you know….!?!?!”

I was so shocked by the sight of her — tightly wrapped in her white robe, arms flailing, face beet red — that I didn’t process any more of what she yelled at me. All I experienced was her RAGE!! I dropped the shears and looked down at my hands; they were shaking.

What in the world…?

I walked to her door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again and waited. Still, no answer. One more time, I knocked…. and nothing.

I knew she was in there, but she was not going to engage with me. I walked back home feeling bewildered. I’d been judged — condemned, and blasted! — and I would be given no chance to appeal.

Only this morning did I make the connection between that bizarre experience and the way many young couples have described infertility and the God they don’t understand.

For much of their lives, God has seemed largely silent and invisible — like my neighbor. They trust that He exists, but they have no real relationship with Him, nor do they sense that He wants one. In their minds, He has lived behind closed blinds and a locked door for so long, they don’t expect Him to make a sudden appearance.

They would welcome His assistance with their efforts to grow something wonderful — but they don’t believe He will offer to help because, like my neighbor, He never has.

Their latent fear is that, if He suddenly does materialize, it will be to vent anger. Just as she did, He will yank open the blinds, blast them with His fury, and then refuse to engage or explain. Better, they decide, not to engage Him at all.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself avoiding a God you believe may be angry, rather than risking engagement? Have you tried to talk with Him, only to find Him unresponsive? Has He come to seem more like a cause for alarm than a source of hope? Like a condemning judge, rather than an ever-present help in times of trouble?

Then you need to claim this promise:

“… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 8:38-39

Whatever you may have done or not done, it cannot come between you and the One who loves you. Your circumstances may make you feel that His love has been withdrawn and you have been forsaken, but you do not need to be afraid. Scripture says:

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” – Romans 8:1

Begin to see your circumstances as an invitation to knock on the door, initiate a conversation, accept God’s limitless grace, and experience the truth that He makes all things possible. You will NOT have the experience I had with my neighbor. Instead, you will discover the source of all love and hope. Trust me.

Ball up your courage.

Knock on the door.

“Do not be afraid” [Matthew 28:10]

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Want more encouragement and cause for hope? Read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

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“Our God is Truly Awesome”

A few days ago, I wrote about the minister and his wife who adopted twins after despairing that they might never become parents. They were matched within weeks of presenting their profile to the adoption agency, and they flew across the country to witness the births of their boys. What a story of God’s incredible goodness!

Some of you who are in the depths of despair over your own infertility struggles may be tempted to argue that that story sounds like a fairy tale — that things like that don’t happen to people like you, and that it’s unlikely to change your circumstances if you trust a God who seems to be failing you already.

I understand those feelings. I wrestled with anger and resentment for years as we attempted to start our family.

So, here’a another story — with a very different outcome.

Jovita Nwaugwu was unable to conceive after years of fertility treatments. She discovered this blog and, through it, the book Pregnant With Hope. She emailed me recently asking for an opportunity to share her story with you. Rather than paraphrase her testimony, I will just post it here in her own words:

“Hello Susan,

I emailed you years ago about how to pray when you are struggling to conceive. Now, I want to share my testimony…

After 7 years of fertility treatment and no success, I decided to seek God seriously. During that time, I realized God does not owe me a child. I changed my spiritual environment and started fasting and praying to know when to stop the fertility treatments. Finally, my pastor told me it was time.

I prayed for a confirmation. It was time for us to start fertility treatments again and my husband refused. He said, “God doesn’t want us to go back for any further treatment.” Even though he had wanted us to go back to treatments, he suddenly changed his mind. I said okay, and I thanked God for His confirmation by my husband’s refusal.

This was in 2014. Then my husband said, “Let’s see what God has for us this year.” This was in April/May.

In August, I found out I was pregnant. Usually, when I’m pregnant, my progesterone level is low and my pregnancy ends up in miscarriage, but this time my progesterone level was perfect. I started thanking, trusting and believing God.

My daughter was born on March 17th and her name is Grace Ogechi. “Ogechi” means “in God’s time.”

Please, I want you to continue encouraging your readers. Your book, Pregnant With Hope, gave me all the hope I needed to go through the wilderness of infertility — and God saw me through. My pregnancy wasn’t an easy journey, but God was with me from start to finish. Our God is truly Awesome and doesn’t share His glory.”

And all God’s people said, Amen.

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For more help and hope, visit PregnantWithHope.info and read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples

 

 

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How to Pray During Infertility

Periodically, I get emails from readers of Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  The most common question is “Will you pray for me?”  But this morning, I got a different question about prayer.  Jovita wrote to say she’s worried that she isn’t praying “right,” and she asked for guidance.  Here’s what I wrote in response….

The only wrong way to pray is without humility and honesty.  Those two components are essential to effective prayer.  Without them, your prayers are offensive to God because they are a charade.

Here’s what I mean.  Scripture says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  A humble heart is an acknowledgement that you need God; you cannot succeed without Him.  It’s an admission that you cannot force a heartbeat into the womb.  You cannot force a birth mother to choose you to adopt her child.  And, you cannot force God to respond to your agenda and your timetable.

Prayers without humility are often thinly-veiled attempts at arm-twisting, sweet-talking, or otherwise manipulating God.  They are typically demanding, selfish and short-sighted.  They are often prayers for instant gratification, rather than prayers of patient faith.  Does that seem at all familiar?  It was for me at the beginning of our infertility journey.

As for honest prayers, scripture makes clear that part of what God loved about David was his honesty.  David voiced his hopes, his remorse, his grief, his anger, his fear… all of it without censorship to the God He loved and trusted.  In response, God gave him a life beyond what he could have asked or imagined.

The same is true for us.  God wants an intimate relationship with us based on complete honesty.  He already knows our deepest thoughts, fears and hopes.  When we voice them to Him in prayer, we are owning the truth of who we are, how we think, and what we feel — and asking Him to love us in the midst of all that.  In spite of all that.  Doing so risks trusting Him completely.  And that delights and honors Him.

So, if you are praying with a humble heart and speaking the truth of what you feel, you’re praying the “right” way.

Beyond that, the most valuable, hard-earned wisdom I have gained about prayer is that telling God what I want and how I want it limits what He can do in my life.  The most truthful and humble prayer I can pray — and consistently the most effective — is “Lord, Your will be done.  I ask for Your best in this situation, whatever that may be, and I trust You to give it to me when the time is right.”

When I pray this way, I surrender (the illusion of) control.  I defer my will to His wisdom and choose to trust His judgment completely.  As a result, I begin to experience peace even before I know the answer.

Scripture says “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” and I am “made righteous by faith.”  So, even if I don’t know when or how God will answer, I KNOW that He will.  It may be in a different way than I ever could have imagined.  Or, it may be just what I would’ve chosen.  Either way, it will be God’s best for me.

In hindsight, that will become clearer… and clearer… and clearer.

It always does.

So, pour your heart out to God.  Trust Him with the truth.  Acknowledge your limitations, praise Him because He has none, and rejoice that He can do ANYTHING.  Tell Him what’s weighing on your heart, ask Him to give you His best, let go, and allow Him to flood your heart with peace.

If you do, I can promise that — in His perfect timing — He will answer your prayers, to His glory.

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Will You Help Me Help Other Infertile Couples?

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve received hundreds of emails from people who’ve found it to be a source of help and hope in the midst of the infertility journey.  It’s been amazing to be entrusted with prayer requests, test results, hopes & dreams — and periodically, the incredible good news that God is every bit as faithful as I promised.

Has the blog been a blessing to you, too?  Are you one of the thousands who’s read Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and experienced a greater sense of God’s presence?  Has it led to a meaningful change in your perspective?  In your spiritual life?  In every aspect of your journey?  If so, I’d like to ask a small favor.  Would you help someone else who’s struggling hear the same good news that’s helped you?  I’m looking for people who’d be willing to spend a few minutes writing a review of Pregnant With Hope on Amazon.

Every day, couples search online for resources that can help guide them on their quest to become parents.  You would do them a great service by candidly sharing your thoughts about what’s different and special about Pregnant With Hope.  In doing so, you’ll be paying forward a blessing you’ve already received:  the knowledge that you are not alone on this journey… God is with you always.

Thank you for helping me help other infertile couples discover the good news that they are already Pregnant With Hope.

p.s.  You don’t have to risk your privacy to write a review; you can use a pseudonym if you prefer not to use your real name.  It’s the comments you post that will make all the difference.  Thanks — and blessings to you.

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The Antidote to Infertility Insanity

Infertility causes temporary insanity.  At least, that’s what I think.  I say that not as the wife of a psychiatrist–who would probably disagree with my armchair diagnosis—but as someone who experienced it first-hand.

What’s my evidence?  Let’s start with the single-minded obsession.  The compulsive checking, tracking, monitoring, documenting, and comparing.  The inability to concentrate on anything else.  The mood swings.  The drama.  The tears.  Should I continue?  It would be easy to blame it all on the meds… but probably not accurate.

If you’ve been there—or if you’re there now—you know what I mean.  There’s really no alternative, right?  That’s just part of the deal when you’re going through infertility.  Well… not so fast.

“Do you still not see and understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don’t you remember?”  Jesus asked these questions of the disciples when they seemed to miss the point of his lesson.  Essentially, he was saying, “Do you still not have my perspective?”

He could just as easily be asking us.

What perspective is he talking about?  See what?  Hear what?  Remember what?

In the midst of infertility, it’s easy (and common) to feel as if we can’t see or hear or remember anything… unless it’s related to having a baby.  That’s all we can think about.  Constantly.  It’s all we can see:  pregnant women everywhere.  It’s all we can hear:  everyone (but us) saying, “I’ve got great news!”  It’s all we can remember:  it hasn’t happened for me.

Our intensely-focused desire is all-consuming.  But somehow, that focus doesn’t seem to help us get any closer to the goal.  In fact, the obsession with getting—and staying—pregnant is actually making it harder to think clearly, see the big picture, and hear the good news.

Wait a minute.  What good news?

“Do you still not see and understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don’t you remember?”

The good news is that God is eternal, unchanging and faithful.  He is a promise-keeper who longs to use our circumstances for our benefit.  The opportunity exists.  And, the Bible says He will—if we will let Him.

Trust that He is at work, and claim His promise:  “…I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”

It’s the only real antidote to infertility insanity.

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Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com

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The Hardest Question II: “Is Infertility His Punishment?”

As much as most men don’t like to talk about infertility, they really aren’t eager to talk about how it makes them feel.  That doesn’t mean, though, that they aren’t wrestling with the question, “Is infertility punishment for something I did?  Something in my past that God doesn’t plan to forgive?”

Two days ago, I wrote a post about the topic of infertility as punishment – sharing the story of Rahab’s journey from deviant-society prostitute to respected wife and mother, and ancestor of Jesus.  It would seem logical that the same amazing grace would be available to men… but is it really?  Or is Rahab’s the Old Testament story that proves the exception to the rule of God’s harsh judgment?

I came across the answer this morning.

I’ve been re-reading Joseph’s story.  As a young man, he had dreams of his brothers and parents bowing down to him.  When he shared the dreams, his eleven brothers’ growing resentment of their father’s favorite son boiled over.  They plotted to kill him, then changed their minds and sold him into slavery in Egypt instead.

Many years later, Joseph had become Pharaoh’s trusted right hand – and the brothers went to Egypt seeking grain during a famine.  They didn’t recognize Joseph, but he recognized them.  That set the stage for an unforgettable encounter….

Joseph spoke harshly to them, wanting to be sure they had changed their ways before he blessed them.  They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of [what we did to] our brother…. that’s why this distress had come upon us.” Guilty consciences, combined with fear of someone else’s power over them and their future, convinced the brothers they were being punished.

The Bible says, “Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’” The brothers were convinced God was using their circumstances to punish them for their unforgivable crime.  No one knew their secret past but God – so this situation must be His intended vengeance.

Just like these brothers, men sometimes assume something in their past is thwarting their dreams for the future.  More than one aspiring father has confessed that fear to me….

Sean thought it was his decision to turn his back on God as a teenager.  Carlos thought it was marrying a black Protestant against his Catholic parents’ wishes.  Brent worried it was his resentment that God’s plans hadn’t matched his own.  Trey thought it was because he’d taken a charmed life for granted.  Mike thought it was because he’d been  insensitive to friends who’d needed his support when they’d struggled through infertility.  Joe worried it was because he’d been a phone-it-in Christian for years.

All these men worried that God might be holding a grudge.  That He might be keeping score and seeing this as a chance to get even.  That anything less than lifelong, heartfelt devotion and choices worthy of Jesus might be cause for punishment from a wrathful, take-no-prisoners judge.  That this might be their fault.

Joseph’s story shows how wrong they were to be afraid.

Joseph put his brothers through a series of tests designed to reveal the truth in their hearts.  When he found honesty and selflessness, he revealed his desire to bless them.  Not only did he offer food for them and their descendants, he and Pharaoh announced “the best of all Egypt will be yours.”

Their crime was never punished; in fact, Joseph explained that God had used their past actions to fulfill His plan for the future.  What had been done with bad intentions was used by God for good.

The same can be true for us.  God can take what we have done and use it – to teach us, to mature us, to bless us.  And to bless others.  What matters is not what we have done, but who we are ready to become.  Are we willing to be accountable for past actions?  Are we ready to put self aside and  trust in God’s unmerited favor?  If so, just like Joseph, God stands ready to forgive those whom He has always loved… and to bless us.

Accept His amazing grace – and join Sean, Carlos, Brent, Trey, Mike and Joe as humbly grateful fathers.

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Surprised by Success

Kristi and Carlos met in graduate school and married soon afterward.  When they began actively trying to have a family, they had no success.  “I had a gut feeling something was wrong,” Kristi remembers.

She went to her Ob/Gyn and shared her concerns.  The doctor waved them off.  “She didn’t want to be aggressive about it.  We were young.”  So, Kristi saw another Ob who referred her to a nationally-renowned RE.  “She ran millions of tests, which she requires before she’ll do any treatment, and she discovered Carlos had a god-awful sperm count.”

They decided to try a round of Clomid with IUI.  Meanwhile, Kristi began researching male factor infertility.  “I read all these sobering statistics and thought, ‘It’ll never happen for us.’  I was convinced  ‘It only takes one sperm’ was a crock.  We wanted 30 million!”

So, anticipating failure and constrained by a very limited budget, they began researching affordable next steps.  They found CREA, an infertility clinic in Carlos’ hometown of Valencia, Spain.  They talked with CREA’s International Coordinator and discovered IVF there would cost 4,000 Euros, about 20% of the cost in the U.S.

They could combine their trip to the clinic with a visit to Carlos’ family, keeping costs at a minimum. Excited about the possibility, Carlos felt optimistic.  But Kristi hit a wall.

“I was so tired of the constant tug-of-war with God.  I was thinking about infertility all day long, feeling immense stress because I couldn’t see how this was going to work. That’s when a good friend gave me her copy of Pregnant With Hope,  The stories about people letting go and trusting God really hit home for me.  Especially the story about Michelle.”

A few days after finishing the book, Kristi went for a drive.  “I remember this moment so well.  All of a sudden, I realized how incredibly tired I was.  I wanted to give up the fight.  I said, ‘God, I’m finally giving you all the control.  If it’s in your will, I want to be a mom.  But I’m not gonna fight you any more.  I get it.  I’ve been so stubborn.  I’m sorry.  I’m done.’”

The next day, she and Carlos met with their RE and shared what they’d learned about CREA.  To their surprise, the doctor recommended it as one of the few international IVF clinics with state-of-the-art procedures and success rates comparable to her own.  Then, she mentioned her plan to travel there  for joint research into a new procedure.

“I started feeling better,” Kristi said.

A few days later, as they were heading out to celebrate Carlos’ birthday, Kristi decided to take a pregnancy test.  “I almost dropped to the floor.  I know what negative looks like, and this was not negative. Carlos  kept asking me, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’  I kept saying, ‘I know negative.  This is not negative.  This is not negative!’”

Baby Isabella came home on Christmas Eve — after a nerve-wracking pregnancy, a very eventful delivery (Kristi had a negative reaction to her epidural that caused uncontrollable seizures), and an extended stay at the hospital.

So, what did Kristi learn from this journey — which turned out to be briefer than what she’d braced for?  “I realized infertility makes you so grateful — and overprotective!” she said, laughing.  “I didn’t want to leave her at the hospital when they sent me home.  All I could think was that I needed to be with her.  I said, ‘God, I’m more nervous than ever!  How will I make it through a lifetime of worrying about her?  Please, let me bring her home soon!’”

Anything else?

“Have faith even when the odds are totally against you.  And don’t think you can control this.  I thought I knew IUI wouldn’t work; I was wrong.  I thought we’d have to go CREA for IVF; I was wrong.  I was sure I was going to have a boy; I was wrong.  I thought I could control how it all unfolded; I was wrong.

“I was wrong about everything.  God has the ultimate say on all of it.  And part of what He said to me was, ‘This is not about you.  You’re not in control.  Let go, and let me do it.  I’m glad I listened.”

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